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The Cruellest Month (Paperback)
I have been staring at the Mrs. Mallory mysteries for the past several months, ever since we received the reprints (they had been out of print for several years). These were books I always meant to take a look at, but never seemed to have enough time in my reading schedule to do so, until now.
Hazel Holt is number one with a bullet.
Mrs. Mallory is quickly becoming one of my absolute favorite mystery series of all time. Her style is similar-ish to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, an amateur investigator who is not always satisfied with the official ruling of the police, who digs into a mystery to see that justice is done. Holt does a great job of laying out the clues for you early on in the book, then making you think she added twist at the end of the book, when the seeds were already planted early on in the story. I love it!
In The Cruelest Month, Mrs. Mallory is off to the Bodleian Library in Oxford (her alma mater) to do some research for a magazine article she is writing. Books, old friends and happy memories surround her - but as it often does - reality intrudes on Mrs. Mallory’s reminiscing in the form of a dead librarian.
Gwen Richmond was disliked by most in the Bodleian for her conniving, manipulating and superior manner. When her body was found beneath a toppled bookcase and its contents, no one mourned her loss, or even appeared to look very closely at the death…..except for Mrs. Mallory’s godson Tony who didn’t think things added up.
Unable to resist the mystery, Shelia (Mrs. Mallory’s first name) begins to investigate. Soon she discovers there were a number of people who have means, motive and opportunity to murder this most unpleasant woman.
If you are looking for a new, very English mystery series to start, I would highly suggest you pick up the Mrs. Mallory series.
Now to warn you there is a cat on the cover of most of her books, but don’t let it fool you. These are not in any way animal mysteries; there is a cat and a couple of dogs whom Shelia occasionally feeds, but they in no way try to help her solve the mystery. (Publishers believe a book will sell 30% better if there is an animal on the cover.)— Amber
— From Cozy
In The Cruellest Month, the death of a librarian in Oxford's New Bodleian library stirs Sheila Malory, whom readers first met in Mrs. Malory Investigates, to probe the victim's past. Sheila's godson Tony, who works at the library, finds Ms. Richmond crushed under some collapsed bookshelves. Could Gwen have been a blackmailer? Could she have been murdered? Among the suspects-all once threatened by Gwen-are a girl Tony is in love with and a female don who has stolen an important artifact from an archeological dig. Sheila then reencounters Trinity don Professor Edward Fitzgerald, who had significantly influenced her life when she was an Oxford student; he also had unhappy ties to the dead woman. But it is the past as recounted in Gwen's diary during WW II that provides the key to the murder and forces Sheila to reexamine what she had considered a happy time in her life. Holt's civilized and tantalizing mystery explores both modern Oxford and rural wartime England.